Leo Ransom of Sherman wants people to know that there are more men that quilt than the public may realize. Some were taught by mothers, grandmothers, and sisters, Ransom said, but men are making a large impact on the quilting world.
Ransom has made more than 75 quilts since he began quilting in June of 2011 and Ransom’s quilts have won top awards in competitions like the Grayson County Fair, Dallas Quilt Show and others.
“There are tons of men quilters out there,” he said. “I am a part of a Facebook group called Men Quilters. I have learned so much from some of these guys. I had the opportunity to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a men’s retreat. That is something that I will start doing every year.”
For Ransom, quilting started when he was looking to make auction items for a family reunion.
“I was trying to think of something that I could make,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well I am going to try to make a quilt after all these years.’ From then I got into quilting. I was doing traditional quilting. It got boring because none of the patterns really excited me. I just happened to join the Sherman Quilt Guild and the presenter one night was doing portrait quilts. I just kind of happened on to it.”
Ransom’s John Lennon paint drop quilt and his confetti lion quilt were featured in the Bonham Quilt Hop last month.
“Pop culture has a lot to do with the things that I choose to quilt,” he said. “I like to do things that are here and now. I like to do icons. Really whatever is going on in the news or who is doing something that is of interest to me. I also like to do things on people who have died recently. There is one that I have not completed yet that is of Maya Angelou. I had the patterns for the one that I am doing of her about 30 after her death, but after joining a Facebook group called Her Story, we chose women in history that have had an impact on women’s rights. I did Oprah. It will be in the exhibit. It will be traveling and will be in a book.”
The Her Story quilt will be a part of a collection that will compete at the Houston International Quilt Show.
“I love sharing so I am hoping that one day, I will be good enough to travel around and do trunk shows and do workshops,” Ransom said. “I would love to do larger quilt shows and teach classes there. My dream was always to get a piece into the Houston International Quilt Show.”
For this piece, Ransom said he used the large confetti technique. These and other pieces by Ransom can take up to six months for him to complete.
“I got to a public domain site and search for whoever I am interested it,” he said. “Then I find a picture that I like. I generally work in grayscale because I want to be able to see the different shadings. I grayscale the picture and then determine how many different colors I can put into the portrait itself. I basically trace out the image onto a large piece of tracing paper. That way when I am placing the pieces in place, I can make sure they are exactly where they are supposed to be. I start in one section and just work my way out.”
Ransom creates the head and then goes back and does the details.
“With this, you can just go crazy with this,” he said. “I love doing that. When I am combining colors it can go into just another world. I really like to see how things complement things together. When they play nicely, you end up with a really good piece. The other thing I like about this is that this is considered art, so I can enter my pieces into art competitions. I took best in show at the Grayson County Fair. … It was my first big win and that was when my friends first started encouraging me to attend.”
Ransom is entering a piece into the Sherman Arts Fest that will be held Sept. 16.
“I have gotten into the embellishments,” he said. “They help to accent the portrait. You can use it around the binding, you can use Swarovski crystals to add accents to the centers of the eyes. I have a dog portrait that I used Swarovski crystals for his eyes and for his collar. Then with variegated thread you can have a lot of different colors within a small section so you can play off of that.”
Ransom’s favorite piece is a portrait that will compete in the Dallas Quilt Show in March.
“I am also working on a piece for a men’s exhibit in Golden, Colorado,” he said. “It is of Louis Armstrong. This is one of my larger pieces. It is about 28 by 44.”
Ransom’s portrait of Nelson Mandela has been in five competitions and three exhibits.
“When I first started out, everyone told me how good I was, so my first competition was the Dallas Quilt Show,” he said. “I was kind of out of my element and I should have waited. It was a learning experience and looking at my stuff and other people’s stuff, I saw the mistakes that I made. Since then I have gotten so much better with my quilting and my bonding.
Ransom said he is very surprised at how the quilting world has changed.
“I love grandma’s quilts, but grandma’s quilts are not meant for my style,” he said. “I normally do sit-down quilting. I am getting interested in long-arm quilting. Long-arm quilting can be 12 to 14 feet long. I am thinking about getting a 9-foot, long-arm quilter. Sit-down quilting you move the entire quilt. Large pieces can be kind of difficult sometimes. You create the quilting design to accentuate the quilt. Sit-down quilting can be more time consuming than long-arm quilting. Sit-down quilting can take 16 hours, and on a long arm that can take about half that time.”
Ransom said he quilts during all of his free time, and he even wakes up in the middle of the night to work on ideas for future quilts.